Top women’s hockey players gather in Cranberry to fight for better pay, respect
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Maddie Rooney supplied the shootout heroics that gave the United States the gold medal in women’s hockey in the 2018 Olympics.
You might bump into them in the toiletries aisle at Target tomorrow morning.
Marie-Philip Poulin and Melodie Daoust are the faces of women’s hockey in Canada and might be the two best players in the world.
You might wait behind them in line for a burrito at Chipotle this afternoon.
In an unprecedented event for hockey in Western Pennsylvania, the women’s national teams for the United States and Canada are holding a joint training camp at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry this week.
After a week of practice for each team, the camp will culminate with exhibition games between the bitter rivals Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
“Every time the U.S. and Canada face off, you can expect each team’s best,” Rooney said. “I think the fans will be happy with what they see and get a great performance out of both of us.”
Before the rival teams face off this weekend, an important question needs to be asked, however: What, exactly, are they doing here?
Why is the camp being held, and why was Cranberry chosen as the venue?
The last part is pretty simple. Officials from the Penguins practice rink were in discussions with USA Hockey about hosting a different tournament when they found out the women’s national teams were looking to hold a joint training camp in November. One thing led to another, and here they are.
“It’s exciting to see the growth of women’s hockey, see the growth of girls hockey, especially in Pennsylvania,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “It’s grown so much. It’s exciting to be here.”
The first part requires some more explanation.
First and foremost, the camp is a replacement on the schedule for the Four Nations Cup, which was to be played this week in Sweden. The host nation is locked in a dispute with its hockey federation over pay, and with players from the U.S., Canada and Finland standing in solidarity with the Swedes, the event was canceled.
“There’s an aspect of equality that needs to be reached worldwide, and I think sports is a vehicle for that and is an example for that,” Lamoureaux-Davidson said.
Around the same time the tournament was being canceled, women’s professional hockey in North America was falling apart. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded in May. The Professional Women’s Hockey League plays on in the U.S., but it doesn’t pay a living wage — its maximum salary reportedly is $15,000 per season — so the world’s top players have boycotted.
They’ve formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in an effort to establish one unified, financially viable league in the United States and Canada.
“We take being role models very seriously,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “We also take women’s equality very seriously. We hope that what we’re able to create gives young girls the opportunity to dream of playing professional hockey like four of my brothers got to dream about. We don’t see that as fair, and we’re doing our part as hockey players to do that.”
The next major international tournament the U.S. and Canada will square off in is the World Championships, which start March 31 in Nova Scotia. With no pro league to play in, players had to figure out a way to stay sharp.
They came up with a barnstorming tour of sorts, which includes five games in places ranging from Moncton, New Brunswick, to Anaheim, Calif., and kicks off in Cranberry.
“At first, it’s a little bit scary,” Poulin said. “I mean, no league. You don’t have a routine. You don’t know what’s going on. But I think we’re doing it for a good reason. We’re doing it for the next generation. We’re doing it for ourselves, as well.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .